John Day

News and commentary on automotive EE trends and topics

10 March, 2016
Volvo Cars' vision of an electric future

Volvo Cars’ vision of an electric future

Volvo believes it’s in the auto industry’s best interest to adopt a standard charging infrastructure for electric cars.

The infrastructure it likes is the Charging Interface  Initiative, which it describes as a consortium of stakeholders founded to establish their Combined Charging System for charging battery-powered vehicles. This isn’t a technology I’ve been following closely so I can’t immediately tell you that this standard is best for the industry. Any thoughts?

Volvo says it will offer a plug-in hybrid variant on every new model as it replaces its entire product portfolio in the coming years. It will introduce a fully electric vehicle by 2019, based on its modular SPA vehicle architecture. To leverage what Volvo sees as the increasing popularity of electric vehicles and ensure that customers fully embrace the technology, Dr Peter Mertens, the company’s Senior Vice President for Research & Development, says “a simple, standardized, fast and global charging infrastructure is needed.

“We see that a shift towards fully electric cars is already underway, as battery technology improves, costs fall and charging infrastructure is put in place,” Dr. Mertens adds. “But while we are ready from a technology perspective, the charging infrastructure is not quite there yet. To really make range anxiety a thing of the past, a globally standardised charging system is sorely needed.”

The Combined Charging System will offer both regular and fast charging capabilities, and Dr. Mertens says it will make electric car ownership increasingly practical and convenient – especially in urban environments, which are ideal for electric vehicles. This brings gas stations to mind. The “drill” is pretty much the same no matter what brand a driver has selected.

The Combined Charging System is said to combine single-phase with rapid three-phase charging, using alternating current at a maximum of 43 kilowatts (kW), as well as direct-current charging at a maximum of 200 kW and the future possibility of up to 350 kW – all in a single system. The Charging Interface Initiative is currently drawing up requirements for the evolution of charging-related standards and certification for use by car makers around the globe.

“We are very happy to support and be involved in the setting of standards for electric vehicle charging systems. The lack of such a standard is one of the main obstacles for growing electric vehicles’ share of the market,” said Dr. Mertens.

Volvo claims to be one of the leading car makers in the field of plug-in hybrids with its Twin Engine technology. One in five of all Volvo XC90s sold is a T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid. “Our Twin Engine technology offers the low emissions, silence, convenience and performance of a pure electric car, combined with the range of a conventional powertrain. It offers the benefits of electrification already today,” said Dr. Mertens.

, ,

26 February, 2016

Anritsu, Ford, Litepoint, octoScope, Savari, Spirent, TASS International and CETECOM have joined forces as the Open Lab Alliance (OLA) to speed-up the development of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.

The OLA held a grand opening earlier this month at CETECOM’s laboratory in Milpitas, California.

open lab alliance logoRobert Johnson, senior director of Automotive Business Unit sales at CETECOM, says the new organization promotes a collaborative test environment to the automotive engineering and software development community. It provides the real world in-lab test scenarios needed for developing connected vehicle subsystems and applications.

CETECOM, an accredited test laboratory, will host the test and measurement companies, roadside unit (RSU) suppliers and simulation system tool providers that Johnson says deliver state of the art automotive test technologies. “We are excited to already have several best-of-breed companies step forward into leadership roles. A key to advancing the connected automated vehicle is through knowledge sharing with our test partners while providing open access to the tools and expertise.”

Johnson explains that with multiple benches, each station addresses a specific test challenge. “In a controlled, yet open work environment, engineers can develop lab experiments and perform various types of testing such as Applink Test Development, Cyber Security tests, TCU Cellular Module tests, Spectrum Analysis, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Navigation testing, Radio Airlink Channel Emulation Wireless Connectivity, as well as Automated Connected driving simulation.”

The current lineup includes:

Anritsu– Testing the TCU Cellular Module & Portable Spectrum Analysis
Ford -Applink Application Testing; developers use Ford headunits to test their apps
Litepoint-Wireless Connectivity – Bluetooth, WiFi, Navigation
octoScope -Radio Airlink Channel Emulator
Spirent – Telematics and Headunit Cyber Security
Savari-DSRC Roadside Unit (RSU) and Onboard Unit (OBU)
TASS International -PreScan Automated and Connected Driving Simulation Platform
CETECOM -Shielded bench top chamber for use throughout lab

And more are coming. Johnson says he is currently in discussion with three more global test equipment providers and four more DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) manufacturers. Johnson says there is no cost associated with joining or participating in the organization. “By providing access to these tools we can accelerate deployment, enable product development and promote useful standards.”

For further information on the OLA, the test technologies and how to reserve a bench in the lab for testing purposes, visit

, , , , , , , ,

22 February, 2016
Volvo On Call. Phone as key

Volvo On Call. Phone as key

I no longer have to grab my car key when I want to start my car. I can keep the key in my pocket and the car knows it’s there. I thought that was pretty nifty, but now Volvo says that if I have one of their soon-to-be-available new cars (2017) I won’t need a key at all. This automotive electronics technology is progressing very quickly.

But I will need a phone

Volvo customers will be offered an application for their mobile phones to replace the physical key with a digital key. Volvo says its Bluetooth-enabled digital key technology will allow customers to benefit from entirely new ways to use and share cars.

The Volvo app will (or at least should) enable the digital key on the customer’s mobile phone to do everything a physical key currently does, such as locking or unlocking the doors and starting the engine.

Plus, customers can get more than one key, so they can open/start more than one (Volvo) car. They could, for example, reserve a rental car and have the “key” delivered immediately to their phone.

Sharing a car, then, could become easier and more convenient.

“At Volvo we are not interested in technology for the sake of technology,” said Henrik Green, Volvo Cars Vice President of Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management. “New technology has to make our customers’ lives easier and save them time. Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way. Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared. Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes.”

Volvo will pilot this technology in spring 2016 via its car sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport, Sweden. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with the new digital key technology in 2017.

“There are obviously many permutations when it comes to how this shared key technology can be used,” added Martin Rosenqvist, New Car Director, Special Products at Volvo Cars. “We look forward to seeing how else this technology might be used in the future and we welcome any and all ideas.”

You may recall that last year Volvo offered to have online shopping delivered directly to the car, by providing a one-time digital key to a delivery company. This is a rather large next step. It will be interesting to see how quickly and how well it’s accepted.

But if you’re not ready, physical keys will be available for people who want them.

If you make it to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week (February 22-25) Volvo’s keyless car technology will be shown for the first time in the Ericsson booth.

, , ,

16 February, 2016

GM logo

Benefits Include Faster Development Cycle Times; Improved Efficiency for GM Vehicles

It’s a big week for Mentor® Capital®. Mentor Graphics announced that General Motors is deploying Mentor electrical systems design tools for vehicle development projects. Considering the importance of electrical systems and how they have to work consistently and with maximum efficiency, GM’s commitment says a lot.

Mentor’s tools are said to deliver cycle time reductions and to support improved engineering processes. They should definitely help General Motors deliver the electronic features demanded by the car-buying public – features that seem to become more sophisticated at every turn. To help achieve those improvements, the Capital suite’s design asset re-use and correct-by-construction technology is said to generate optimized platform-level wiring automatically.

As we speak, electrical systems for new General Motors vehicles are being designed using Capital tools. And design data for existing vehicles is being converted to Capital software with the aid of utilities developed by Mentor’s consulting organization. The result is said to be rapid tool adoption through the availability of infrastructure such as rule decks and libraries, and broadened user familiarity.

General Motors is also taking advantage of on-demand training provided via the Mentor Learning Center web platform, which includes tutorials, hands-on exercises, and knowledge checks developed by Mentor’s product experts, tailored to a number of distinct user profiles.

Like other OEMs, General Motors develops vehicles based on a number of core platforms that are typically tailored to local market preferences. This pattern demands comprehensive data handling, and compatibility with the enterprise IT environment. General Motors has reached key milestones such as production design data release on schedule while transitioning to Capital.

“General Motors’ adoption of Capital is a model of good practice,” said Martin O’Brien, general manager, Mentor Automotive. “It has been speedy but also highly structured. We look forward to working further with GM as the applicability of additional tools within the Capital range is explored, for example to help control electrical system configuration complexity or automatically create technical publications.”

, , ,

12 February, 2016



Visteon says cars today have up to 100 microprocessors and that number is expected to double in the next five years. Cars also have more lines of software code than almost anything else – the space shuttle, for example – over 100 million lines in some vehicles.

Automotive electronics technology has to become more efficient.

Visteon has developed an automotive grade cockpit domain controller as a step toward solving the problem. The controller, SmartCore, is expected to launch with a European automaker in 2018.

Visteon says SmartCore combines previously separate instrument clusters, head-up displays (HUD) and advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) domains on a one-chip, multi-domain controller that can be accessed through an easy-to-use human machine interaction (HMI).

“SmartCore is a game-changing technology that offers significant and unique advantages over traditionally separated and non-connected infotainment systems, instrument clusters and ADAS controllers,” says Visteon President and CEO Sachin Lawande. “Different operating systems can run side-by-side on one core and several levels of information – from safety-critical vehicle data to personal information from the Cloud – are combined into one system for the first time. This significantly improves efficiency and security, while reducing the cost of ownership in the cockpit.”

Visteon plans to offer SmartCore at different levels. At the lower end, the platform might include just an instrument cluster system or an entry-level infotainment system. At the higher end, it can incorporate several displays including infotainment, head-up and rear seat displays, and tablets.

At CES 2016 Visteon demonstrated a high-end configuration with two 12.3-inch color thin film transistor (TFT) displays and an additional head-up display, all driven from a single integrated unit. Plus, up to four tablets can be connected via Wi-Fi.

Visteon says that SmartCore allows users to change and grow the vehicle’s feature set over its lifetime. They can purchase apps via a vehicle manufacturer-certified app store. These apps are stored in an easily-accessible library, from which users can decide which apps are visible.

More detail is available in a white paper: “Secure Virtualization for an Ever Increasing Vehicle Complexity” (

, , , ,

8 February, 2016
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The 2017 Bolt, which is scheduled to begin production later this year, is Chevrolet’s first ground-up, long-range electric vehicle.

Chevrolet says the car’s styling centers on its “unique proportion,” attributable to a flat battery pack mounted beneath the interior floor. Due to the packaging of the battery pack, the Bolt EV interior offers seating for five passengers and 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. A 102.4-inch wheelbase and wide track is said to give the Bolt the look of a small crossover, and a short front overhang indicates that “driving power comes from next-generation technology.” Sounds interesting.

“We were given a blank canvas – a rare opportunity with a unique platform to recast EV design for customers across the spectrum,” says Stuart Norris, managing director of Design. “The team answered the challenge with a progressive design distinguished by dramatic graphics and exceptional passenger space.”

Large windows, a plunging beltline, and a steeply raked windshield are all said to contribute to the progressive profile and to emphasize the interior’s spaciousness and bright airy feel.

The large greenhouse is said to offer a panoramic view from SUV-like seating positions. The rear-window glass extends all the way to the license plate and integrates with LED taillamps on the liftgate. By integrating the taillamps into the full-width liftgate, the Bolt makes it easier to slide boxes and other items in and out of the vehicle.

LED headlamps wrap around the forward edge of the front fascia, creating an aggressive character. The dual-element grille, which is said to incorporate graphics with depth and a three-dimensional quality, is offered with two signature colors, harmonized with the exterior color choices.

“The flat-pack orientation offered the flexibility to make the most of the proportions while creating a clean, sculpted design,” says Norris. “This really opened up the interior and created a fantastic view from every seating position. All of this additional space gave us a lot of opportunities to play with creative design and storage solutions.”

A “floating” instrument panel features a 10.2-inch-diagonal capacitive-touch control screen that creates a horizontal feel to the interior. Maximizing knee room and cross-vehicle spaciousness. A multipurpose, connected center console features side-by-side cupholders, a wireless charging location and a sliding armrest covering a storage compartment large enough to store a tablet.

The interior is offered with signature-color Electrification blue ambient lighting emanating from beneath metallic white decorative trim.

“The Bolt EV’s design elements are designed for everyday life and the space inside accommodates it all, whether you and your friends go shopping for the day or take off for the weekend,” said Norris. “Inside and out, this game-changing vehicle makes a dramatic statement with a distinctive identity that can only be a Chevy and challenges expectations for what an affordable EV can offer.”

, , ,

29 January, 2016

ces logoWe hear a lot these days about connected vehicles, and when we do, the topic of hacking comes up. The idea that someone can take over our car while we’re driving is a scary thought, but according to panelists at an CES 2016 session, malevolent hacking is not currently a widespread problem. In fact, panel members were hard-pressed to identify any particularly damaging incident.

Panel members at the session, which was sponsored by Mentor Graphics, included:

• Glen De Vos, Vice President of Engineering at Delphi
• John T. Ellis, Managing Director at Ellis & Associates
• Karl Heimer, Founder at Autoimmune
• Rainer Oder, General Manager of Mentor’s automotive business.

Paul Hansen, founder and editor of the Hansen Report, moderated the session, which was televised, and is available here:

The fact that few if any “black hat” hacking events have occurred does not mean that hacking is not a potential problem, but it is one for which there is no clear or highly visible solution. Panelists agreed that work is ongoing and will continue.

What are your thoughts about vehicle hacking and what do you see as the solution?

, , , , ,

27 January, 2016

multicore association logo

I saw a familiar name in a Mentor Graphics press release this week – Markus Levy, chairman of the Multicore Association (MCA).

Mentor announced Mentor® Embedded Multicore Framework (MEMF) as the first commercial implementation of the OpenAMP™ industry standard, which was established by the MCA.

The MCA working group wants to use the OpenAMP specification to create a standardized application program interface (API) for communication and synchronization between homogeneous and heterogeneous multicore embedded systems. Mentor considers its OpenAMP framework to be the first comprehensive solution for heterogeneous multicore system-on-chip (SoC) development.

Heterogeneous architectures combine two or more different types of microprocessors or microcontrollers. They enable development of advanced embedded systems for high-performance embedded devices.
Mentor’s contribution – MEMF – is an integrated development solution for device configuration, deployment and system optimization. It works with Linux®, the Nucleus® real-time operating system (RTOS), and bare-metal applications. Its goal is to help design teams quickly develop high-performance applications for automotive and other kinds of products.

The MCA wants to establish a consortium based on common initiatives and resources for effective multicore development. According to Markus Levy, “The OpenAMP open source project enables companies to adopt OpenAMP as a framework to address inter-process communications and core lifecycle management between cores and operating systems. The adoption of OpenAMP from multiple vendors will result in greater product innovation and differentiation and the use of OpenAMP as a common framework will provide interoperability and reduce risk for developers.”

That sounds promising. The OpenAMP standard addresses many of the challenges designers face with heterogeneous systems, such as:

• Configuring and deploying multiple operating systems and applications across cores.
• Booting multiple operating systems efficiently and in a coordinated manner across micro-processors and micro-controllers.
• Communicating between isolated sub-systems on a multi-core processor or between heterogeneous processors.

“The MCA and Mentor’s initiatives to improve industry adoption of multicore architectures with OpenAMP are critical to the success of heterogeneous multicore and multi-OS systems,” says Glenn Perry, vice president and general manager of Mentor Graphics Embedded Systems Division.

“A fully open-source solution for OpenAMP ensures a common platform for anyone to build the next generation of heterogeneous multicore embedded devices. Our commitment to embedded open source is substantiated with OpenAMP, which will continually be enhanced and maintained by our engineering team, with the help of others in the open source community.”

, ,

21 January, 2016
IEEE-Bruce Kraemer-2012

Bruce Kraemer, President, IEEE Standards Association

According to Bruce Kraemer, president of the IEEE Standards Association, Connected cars are enabling many new services related to navigation, telematics and infotainment. As that happens, standardization is playing a key role.

A substantial increase in public sector investment in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) has driven automobile manufacturers to offer connected solutions that leverage ITS expansion.

From the consumer side, there has been a growing demand for in-vehicle services and an increasing number of web-based applications being created specifically for drivers and passengers. There has been a lot of positive movement on the connected car front, but the incompatibility of platforms can hamper wide adoption of connected solutions.

Kraemer says the IEEE has taken steps to lead efforts related to global standardization for tomorrow’s transportation ecosystem by launching the IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee on Transportation (IEEE SCC42 Transportation).

IEEE SCC42 represents a global effort to promote transportation standards and facilitate adoption throughout the entire transportation ecosystem. Using globally recognized IEEE standards and best practices within the IEEE-SA, the IEEE SCC42 Transportation brings together related disciplines to help ensure a future for transportation that will be more connected, automated, intelligent, electric and electronic.

Here are some of the key standards related to connected cars:

Ethernet Network Connectivity
Many of today’s connected cars already use Ethernet in backup camera connections and for some infotainment systems. The IEEE 802.3 and IEEE 802.1 standards defining Ethernet now include extensions that outline practical solutions to deliver many of the specifications, features and functions required for an automotive bus that meets the demands of in-vehicle networking.

Because connected cars will contain multiple networked endpoints that connect to services and resources in the IoT, security against malicious cyber-attacks is paramount. Kraemer says that with Ethernet, the automotive industry can leverage commercially available Ethernet security solutions.

Based on IEEE 802.1AE MACsec, which facilitates secure communication over publicly accessible LAN/MAN media, and the associated IEEE 802.1x KeySec for key management, these standards define the Authentication, Authorization and Accounting (AAA) measures to protect Ethernet-based automotive buses.

Developed by the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society (IEEE VTS), IEEE 1512-2006 addresses the exchange of vital data about public safety and emergency management issues involved in transportation-related events, through common incident management message sets. The message sets specified are consistent with the National Intelligent Transportation Systems Architecture and are described using Abstract Syntax Notation One (“ASN.1” or “ASN”) syntax. This standard comprises the basic volume of the family of incident management standards, a multi-volume set of documents centered on this Base Standard.

Because Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are vital to ensuring safety, protecting environments and relieving traffic congestion, IEEE VTS is developing the 1512 family of standards to ensure ITS components can communicate easily and effectively and with one another.

The IEEE 1512 family also includes three additional standards specifying incident management message sets for transportation management-related data exchange and hazardous-material and cargo-related data exchange, and the like. The goal is to support efficient communication for the real-time, interagency management of transportation related events. Those events include incidents, emergencies, accidents, planned roadway closures, special events, and disasters caused by humans or natural events.

With connected cars, it’s easy to envision a future where vehicles are fully aware of everything along their routes and capable of communicating instantaneously with other vehicles, infrastructure, cloud services, and more. Global interoperability of the platforms and applications associated with connected cars is highly dependent on standards development and IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is committed to advance the technologies that will drive tomorrow’s transportation ecosystem.


15 January, 2016

ford 1-14-16Ford Looks at Linking Health Data to Driver-Assist Technology

Ford says that more consumers are wearing wearable devices like smart watches, glasses and fitness trackers. It also suggests that the connection between what you wear and what you drive is getting stronger.

So Ford is opening an Automotive Wearables Experience lab at its Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

There, scientists and engineers will work on integrating wearable devices and vehicles to enable driver-assist technologies to be more aware of the driver behind the wheel – particularly when that driver is stressed or sleepy.

“As more consumers embrace smart watches, glasses and fitness bands, we hope to develop future applications that work with those devices to enhance in-car functionality and driver awareness,” said Gary Strumolo, global manager for vehicle design and infotronics, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

Ford researchers are examining the potential to link vital health information to in-vehicle technologies, including lane-keeping assist and Blind Spot Information System.

Lane-keeping assist could become more sensitive if a smart watch sends data to the vehicle that infers the driver didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. Or, if a driver’s heart rate increases as traffic intensifies, the vehicle’s adaptive cruise control or Blind Spot Information System could increase the distance between vehicles.

“Wearable technology integrated with the vehicle allows for more accurate biometric data to stream continuously and alert active driver-assist systems to become more sensitive if the driver shows signs of compromised health or awareness,” Strumolo said.

The ability to measure wakefulness and health data including blood pressure, blood glucose and heart rate via wearable technology also could benefit semi-autonomous driving features.

The wearables lab is examining ways to signal a driver using semi-autonomous features of the potential need to take driving control back from the vehicle. If there were road construction or an accident ahead, a situation requiring a human at the wheel, the technology could send a wrist vibration or chimes, or even activate flashing lights on the dash.

, , ,